How to Use Mercury to Recover Gold

Learn How how to use mercury to recover gold.


These procedures are for learning how to use mercury to recover gold Tom Ashworth (the author) shall not be liable for incidental or consequential damages in connection with or arising out of the furnishing or use of this material.  I have no control over how you do these procedures.  This procedure works for me; if something gets messed up, it is your problem, not mine!


    • The processes herein require high heat, mercury, and very dangerous acids and must be performed in a well-ventilated area.  Always use mercury, sulfuric acid, and nitric acid in a well-ventilated area.  DO NOT breathe the fumes.
    • Mercury begins to vaporize at room temperature, and its fumes can be deadly.
    • Fumes from many ores are deadly when heated.
    • Nitric acid can be absorbed through the skin, causing nitric acid poisoning.  WEAR RUBBER ACID GLOVES.  Always add acid to water; NEVER ADD WATER TO ACID!
    • Mercury and nitric acid can kill if swallowed.
    • Always wear rubber gloves, safety glasses, and a plastic or rubber apron.
    • These procedures are only for learning how to use mercury to recover gold.



  • Large copper gold pan
  • Rubber spatula
  • Tweezers
  • An oral syringe or large veterinarian’s syringe
  • Virgin cotton balls
  • Pyrex Beaker


  • Mercury
  • Nitric acid
  • Distilled water (With no chlorine)
  • Mercury


Gold Nugget
Gold Nugget

These procedures use mercury to recover gold and clean water without chlorine.  Chlorine mixed with nitric acid can dissolve gold.  Gold must be pure for mercury to attach itself.  Sometimes placer gold will be covered with a thin film of oil, preventing the gold from being amalgamated unless the oil gets cleaned off first.  CAUTIONS: Working with nitric acid can be very dangerous.  Be extra careful to avoid spilling it on yourself or splashing it in your eyes.  DO NOT breathe its fumes!  When a solution of nitric acid is poured onto a dirty set of concentrates, the effect will be a bubbly reaction.  Allow the concentrates to bathe until all the visible response has stopped.


  1. Soak the concentrates in a 10:1 solution of nitric acid, which means ten parts of water to 1 amount of nitric acid.  Use a Pyrex beaker.  The reason is to clean the gold.  You can do a better job if you put the concentrates and the 10:1 solution in a rock tumbler with a plastic or rubber barrel (no metal, acid will corrode the metal).
  2. Rinse the concentrates with fresh water, diluting the acid, and wash away.  Once you are done, the concentrates are properly set up for amalgamation.
Retrieving Mercury Amalgam
  1. Take a clean, large, copper gold pan and coat thoroughly with mercury, using a pad of folded cloth.  Deposit the concentrates in the pan, and add some fresh water.  Then swirl and agitate until the mercury has taken in all visible gold.  If you want to check for platinum if you suspect it may be present, wash the black sands into a separate pan which you can review later.
  2. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the gold-bearing mercury from the copper gold pan into a Pyrex beaker.
Getting Mercury Amalgam Ball
  1. Wet a ball of virgin cotton and squeeze out the excess water.  Place it into the bottom of an oral or veterinarian syringe and pour in the amalgam ball.  Replace the plunger and press the plunger to extract the excess mercury by holding the end of the needle over a container.  Fill the container with water to prevent the mercury from splashing or bouncing out as it drops into the container if you hold the end of the needle under the water’s surface.
  2. Remove the plunger from the syringe and extract the cotton containing the amalgam using tweezers.  Put the amalgam ball into a Pyrex beaker and set it in a safe place, downwind of any populated area within the vicinity.
  3. Mix and pour in a nitric acid solution and allow it to bubble until there is no visible reaction.  BE CAREFUL NOT TO BREATHE THE FUMES GIVEN OFF BY THE CHEMICAL REACTION!
  4. Pour off the acid solution into another glass jar or a beaker; so that the mercury in the solution can be recovered later (see how to do it below).

Using Nitric Acid for Mercury to Recover Gold

  1. If all of the mercury has not dissolved from step 7, with the gold back in its natural flake and powder form, pour fresh water into the jar and use an old screwdriver to poke it around and break it up.  Next, pour out the water and pour in another solution of nitric acid.  Sometimes it is necessary to drive at the gold just a bit to break it up while the acid works.  Again, an old screwdriver works well for this.
  2. When the reaction stops, flush the container with fresh water.  If the gold is still not back in its natural form, repeat the above steps.  When dealing with small amounts of amalgam, the gold will usually be thoroughly cleaned after step 7.  However, when working with larger amounts of amalgam, it is necessary to do the steps a few times as described above or use a stronger acid solution.


Mercury Attached To Gold
Mercury Attached To Gold-1

NOTE: if you have a large number of concentrates, you may wish to ignore steps 3 and 4, place the concentrates, estimate the correct amount of mercury into a rock tumbler, and allow it to turn for several hours.  Some large-scale operations employ the use of portable cement mixers.  If a new cement mixer is used, run it with a full load of sharp sand and gravel for 10 to 12 hours to scour out any paint present, as it will contaminate the mercury.


To recover the mercury in the solution (see step 8), drop some aluminum foil into the acid solution.  A chemical reaction occurs, and the acid solution drops the mercury to attack the aluminum.  This causes the mercury to revert to its natural liquid metal form at the bottom of the jar.  Then rinse out the acid solution, and you will be left with most of your original mercury.


Finally, I will show you how to use mercury to recover gold.  After mercury has been used several times in the amalgamation process, it becomes dirty.  This is because it tends to break down into smaller, separate balls instead of all coming together into a single mass.  To clean impure mercury, you soak it in a nitric acid solution of 30:1 part of the acid.  The acid will clean the impurities and allow them to amalgamate properly again.  Your mercury can be used repeatably to amalgamate gold.  It can also be cleaned when necessary in this way.

Hope you enjoy Tom Ashworth’s article.


Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top